Bruno is the latest film by shock comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in which he plays the eponymous gay fashion stylist who, after getting his television show cancelled, moves to America with aspirations of becoming a big celebrity.
As with his previous film Borat, Bruno blurs the line between scripted and unscripted scenes and the plot, if you could call it that, is barely strung together by a series of sketches which could really be shown in almost any order.
Although the formula is ostensibly quite similar to Borat, there does seem to be a bit of change to Cohen’s temperment and to this film’s tone. The character of Borat, who is unwittingly offensive yet very good natured, would often succeed in getting people’s guard down about their prejudices and misconceptions about other races and cultures. The humour would typically come from outrageous things Borat would get other people to say or agree to, or failing that, he would make a polite and mild mannered person feel incredibly awkward when he commits a series of social taboos.
With Bruno, Cohen has a character who plays on people’s discomfort of homosexuality (albeit he plays the role to an absurdly campy extreme) but unlike Borat where the humour came almost entirely at the expense of conservative Americans, in Bruno, he is just as much looking to provoke the same reaction out of the audience. One of the film’s most infamous scenes shows a television test audience watching a pilot for Bruno’s new tv program which involes full frontal nudity in the form of a swinging singing penis. The film breaks the fourth wall and shows this pilot to the cinema audience and thus the viewers are effectively in the same position as the test audience in the film itself.
The film is a social experiment of sorts where the audience you are watching the film with, and you yourself, are tested by Cohen. The person sitting to my left in the cinema stood up, as if to leave, at the first champagne-bottle-in-the-anus gag. Some people in the audience were laughing. Others were clearly repulsed. Watching an audience reacting to Bruno is almost as interesting as the film itself. Its not unlike the many ‘2 Girls 1 Cup’ videos on Youtube which simply show a viewers response to seeing the video itself.
The film is anarchic, chaotic and intermittently funny. The occasional gentle rib about confusing Hamas and hummus will ultimately be forgotten though.
Bruno is a film you should only ever watch once. More to the point, you really need to watch it with a cinema full of people to get the full effect. If you missed out and watch it on DVD in a few months from now, then you’re just sitting in a room by yourself looking at a swinging singing penis. Then whos laughing?
I get the feeling with this film that Cohen wanted to shake some of the populism he found with the Ali G and Borat characters. At the height of the Ali G character’s popularity, it was said that the late Queens Mother was a fan. If she were alive today, I’m not sure what she’d make of Bruno.